Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

August 14, 2018

Tight spot on Huron Avenue

Filed under: Cambridge,cycling — Tags: , , , , , , — jsallen @ 1:01 pm

I am expanding here on comments which I made on a post in the Cambridge Bikes Facebook group.

The overhead view from the post shows a stretch of Huron Avenue near Sparks Street.

Huron Avenue and Sparks Street, Cambiridge, Massachusetts

Huron Avenue and Sparks Street

I see here a retrofit to a car-centric street design in an attempt to accommodate bicyclists of all ages and abilities, a popular goal of bicycling advocacy.

This stretch is downhill right to left in the overhead view. A common explanation for the buffer (diagonally-striped area) to the left of the bike lane is that it is to protect cyclists from overtaking motorists — but it places the bike lane in the door zone. A bike lane in the door zone is unsafe for any bicyclists, but it is worse here. Motorists don’t have x-ray vision. A look in the driver’s side mirror won’t show a bicyclist until rather late on a right-hand curve: bicyclists are hidden by the parked cars behind. Bicyclists can travel as fast or nearly as fast as cars here, also worsening the dooring hazard. and do best to merge out and ride in the stream of motor traffic. This also improves sight distance for motorists who might (horrors!) have to slow a little to follow a bicyclist.

On the other side of the street, the bike lane leads bicyclists into the right-hook zone at Sparks Street in the expectation that all right-turning motorists will yield. The green-painted crossing is an attempt to accommodate bicyclists who do not check for traffic behind them, whether due to lack of skill, a stiff neck, inattention or misplaced trust. But, not all motorists yield. A bicyclist needs to be extra careful here, casting a look over the shoulder, and preferably merging left to block a right-turning motorist or let that motorist pass on the right.

Is it actually possible to design safely for all ages and abilities here? A speed hump could help by slowing motor traffic. Removing parking spaces would make a big improvement, but parking spaces are sacred to residents and business owners, and illegal parking (as in the bike lane on the south side) is tolerated as a minor sin. Moving the legal parking to the uphill, soutth side, would reduce the dooring risk. On the south side, bicyclist are traveling more slowly and sight lines are better.

But above all, a major change in motorists’ behavior is needed — a cultural change: reduction in speed, and respect for bicyclists who safely far enough from the parked vehicles to avoid dooring. Attempting to bring about bicycling accessible to people of all ages and abilities using paint first, without the public will to step up enforcement, gets things backwards. In the mean time, children might ride slowly on the sidewalk, but grownups do best to use defensive driving techniques, as I have described.  The major motorist behavior change can be expected (with autonomous vehicles) — in a decade or three.  If  shared use becomes dominant with motor vehicles, there also will be less need for parking spaces and that would be good too.

August 7, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 329-330: Aug 7, 2018

Episode 329 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 7, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Aug 7, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main topics: Buildings going up in Central Square and elsewhere, Central Square Cultural District, St. James Church housing development and obstructionism. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 330 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 7, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Aug 7, 2018 at 6:00pm. Main topics: Some background on unsavory settlements, petition to landmark EMF building, some ideas on Central Square Arts Overlay. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

July 31, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 327-328: July 31, 2018

Episode 327 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 31, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on July 31, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topics were drawn from the July 30 Cambridge City Council meeting, especially the disposition of the Nakagawa-Brown petition. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 328 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 31, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on July 31, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topics were drawn from the July 30 Cambridge City Council meeting, and other things from around town. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

July 30, 2018

Endless Summer – July 30, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:30 am

Endless Summer – July 30, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe City Council’s one summertime Special Meeting is this Monday. The actual number of agenda items is not unusually high for a Midsummer meeting, but the 1001 page package of Council materials surely must have violated some City tree ordinance or another. The likely big draw will be the Nakagawa-Brown Petition (which goes by various other marketing names) – the latest in a multi-decade effort to slow new construction in Cambridge. There’s also a proposed ordinance for how to regulate marijuana sales in our emerging world of people neutralized by mind-numbing cellphones, apps that erode personal navigational abilities, and substances that dull your mind.

Here are the agenda items I found either interesting, refreshing, or ridiculous – with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-57, regarding a report on launching a program during the summer months to activate the front lawn of City Hall in the afternoons with games.


Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Douglas Brown, et al., Zoning Petition.

Order #13. That the City Manager, with input from Mayor McGovern and the City Council, is requested to appoint an advisory committee to work through resiliency elements raised during the Envision process and through the Brown petition and report back to the City Council, with the input of the appropriate City agencies and departments.   Councillor Toomey

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 27, 2018 to discuss the Zoning petition received from Douglas Brown et al to amend the zoning Section 20.70 Flood Overlay district and creation of a new Section 22.80 – Green Factor.

An enormous number of letters of formal opposition to the Nakagawa-Brown Petition.

The protest letters may represent a sufficiently high percentage of the affected land area that a super-duper majority of 7 of 9 votes would be needed for this zoning amendment to pass. [If you need my 0.07 acres to cross the threshold, let me know.] That said, it probably couldn’t muster 5 votes and will likely be allowed to expire without coming to a vote. There may be a few ideas contained in the petition that could be useful if revised and brought up in a different context, e.g. incentives for better use of privately owned open space and/or recommendations for greater resiliency in building infrastructure. The worst aspect of this petition, in my humble opinion, is that it is being sold as a "climate safety petition" as if the goal was to protect people when it’s primarily about limiting growth (which is a perfectly rational goal, but just be honest about it). Some of its supporters have even gone so far as to suggest that failure to pass this would be "immoral".

By the way, it’s not just the possibility of derailing the renovations to the Miller’s River Apartments that makes this petition problematic, and a few nit-picky amendments to carve out exceptions won’t make it any better. This petition would throw an enormous percentage of the city’s buildings into nonconformity and could turn even the most basic building modifications into an expensive legal nightmare. There’s also an apparent belief that property owners are incapable of making rational economic choices, e.g. taking steps to minimize future costly damage due to heavy rains or storm surges. The petitioners have apparently decided that only they can ensure your personal safety.


Update: Based on concerns that this proposed zoning amendment would jeopardize funding for the Millers River renovations as well as other proposed affordable housing projects, the City Council chose to move the petition to a 2nd Reading for the purpose of having that vote fail (which it did on a 4-5 vote with Councillors Carlone, Devereux, Kelley, and Zondervan voting to pass to a 2nd Reading and Councillors Mallon, Siddiqui, Simmons, Toomey, and Mayor McGovern voting against passing to a 2nd Reading). This not only ends the life of this petition but also prevents its reintroduction for the next two years. After the vote, Councillor Toomey made a motion for "Suspension of the Rules for the purpose of Reconsideration hoping the same will not prevail" – a parliamentary move to finalize the vote. That first requires that the Rules be suspended which requires 6 votes, and it failed on a 5-4 vote with those who had voted against passing to a 2nd Reading voting for Suspension of the Rules. That leaves open the possibility that one aggrieved councillor may file for Reconsideration of the vote – a pointless gesture that would most likely lead to a hastily scheduled Special Meeting solely to vote on Reconsideration which would yield no change in the outcome – only delay. [PS – Councillor Zondervan turned out to be that aggrieved councillor who filed for Reconsideration. The only problem is that, as I suspected, under Robert’s Rules of Order (not this Robert) a member has to be on the prevailing side of a vote in order to be able to file for Reconsideration. In this case the prevailing side was the vote NOT to pass to a 2nd Reading, so Councillor Zondervan was ineligible.]

It was pointed out over and over at the meeting that most of the elements of the petition with any merit were already in discussion and being considered both within City departments and City task forces and as part of the Envision Cambridge process. – RW


Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a draft zoning petition concerning the regulation of cannabis establishments in the City of Cambridge in response to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-75. [Cannabis Zone Map]

My prediction: Legal marijuana shops will sell the expensive stuff and the riff raff will still buy from other sources. Also, let’s face it – so-called "medical marijuana dispensaries" were always intended to be a first step toward recreational pot shops. I hope they can at least bring back the Peter Max posters and lava lamps from the head shops of my youth.


Manager’s Agenda #26. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-14, regarding a report on applying for a Targeted Brownfields Assessment grant for Jerry’s Pond.


Three rambling and incoherent communications regarding Magazine Beach from the inevitable Robert LaTrémouille.

Five communications from the ever-colorful Peter Valentine – who always means well.


Resolution #7. Retirement of Ellen Shacter from the Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Resolution #18. Resolution on the death of George Teso.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #19. Resolution on the death of Richelle Robinson.   Councillor Simmons


Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council for an update on the Grand Junction Overlay District in September.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with appropriate staff from the City, MassDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration, the MBTA and any other organization with jurisdiction over the Sherman Street train crossing and related train traffic with the goal of implementing whatever street and intersection changes are necessary to get this area re-designated a “quiet zone.”   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Toomey

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City departments on what attempts were made to discuss with Lesley University or the Episcopal Divinity School about purchasing the property for affordable housing development and the results of any such discussion.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City departments to establish an action plan to work with the City’s Community-Based Organizations to create a network of summertime evening programming to reduce the threat of violence in the City’s public spaces in 2019 and beyond.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to adopt a policy of replacing any failed 4000K LED streetlights with warmer alternatives as opportunities arise, and offering shielding/filtering upon request from nearby residents whenever possible.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

I want those LED lights that keep changing colors.

Order #15. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts, and Celebrations Committee hold a hearing before October to discuss the various events being planned for Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018 and ways to properly observe the holiday in a way that promotes the culture, history, and diversity of Native American peoples during future years.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

This Order really makes me yearn for a cannoli from the Cafe Roma Pastry Shop on Hanover Street in the North End.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff to determine the navigational editing capabilities of the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

I continue to marvel at just how quickly the ability of human beings to navigate or even know where they are has degenerated thanks to their "smart" phones and their "smart" cars.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to contract with an outside survey company to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of inclusionary tenants’ experiences, with a particular emphasis on biased practices.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

Must be that video.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on May 15, 2018 to discuss the development of an Affordable Housing Overlay District plan.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Apr 10, 2018 to discuss the first annual report from the Community Development Department as called for in the updated Inclusionary Zoning ordinance.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on June 19, 2018 to review the whole licensing and permitting process and to discuss ways to make it more efficient.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on June 13, 2018 to was to receive an update on the Short-Term Rental Ordinance #1397.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on May 23, 2018 to discuss an Arts Overlay District ordinance that would achieve the goals of creating and preserving spaces for the arts in the Central Square Cultural District.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez City Clerk, transmitting a communication from Mayor Marc McGovern, appointing Councillor Mallon as chair to the newly formed Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts.

July 17, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 325-326: July 17, 2018

Episode 325 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 17, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on July 17, 2018 at 5:30pm. The topic was “a few of our favorite things” in Cambridge – with pictures, including Magazine Beach, Sacramento Field and the community garden, Fresh Pond Reservation, and Mount Auburn Cemetery. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters
[On YouTube]


Episode 326 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 17, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on July 17, 2018 at 6:00pm. The topic was “a few of our favorite things” in Cambridge – with pictures, including Mount Auburn Cemetery, North Point, and the annual Old-Time Baseball game at St. Peter’s Field. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

July 10, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 323-324: July 10, 2018

Episode 323 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 10, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on July 10, 2018 at 5:30pm. Our guest was Cathie Zusy of Magazine Beach Partners. Topics: Restoration of the powder magazine building at Magazine Beach and the many other great things happening at Magazine Beach. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 324 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 10, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on July 10, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Cambridge history, Supreme Court nominees, local elections, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 26, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 321-322: June 26, 2018

Episode 321 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 26, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 26, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topics were the June 25 City Council meeting and pending zoning petitions. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 322 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 26, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 26, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topics were the autonomous vehicles, the future of transportation, and the recent Open Archives events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 24, 2018

Pre-Vacation Convocation – Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:49 pm

Pre-Vacation Convocation – Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeThese tasty morsels are available for you to digest in the last regular meeting before the summer recess.

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-33, regarding a report on supporting a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-42, regarding Autonomous Vehicles testing.

These are included primarily for information. By the way, the prediction is that if and when autonomous vehicles become commonplace there will be considerably more vehicles on the roads at any given time, and tailgating will be the norm because, you know, sensors. There is also some concern that the use of public transportation may drop considerably.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-48, regarding a request for yield to Pedestrians signage in bike lanes.

Nothing special here except for the funny line: "We do not recommend installing post mounted signs, as they will add additional sign clutter to the roadside environment…" Nothing says clutter more than zig-zagging lines of upright PVC posts bolted to the roadway – and there’s more coming – and it’s not debatable.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-59, regarding a report on collecting data from the Human Rights Commission on housing-related activities including number of housing related investigations, number of housing-related cases successfully mediated, relationships with regional housing-related organizations and successes and challenges of the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the two following ordinances: Chapter 2.76 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Human Rights Ordinance) and proposed amendments to Chapter 14.04 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Fair Housing Ordinance).

Again, mainly for information. It is curious to see just how much effort is required to change the word "gender" to the phrase "gender identity". Whatever.

Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a revised draft of the proposed Surveillance Technology Ordinance.

I drove down to MIT and then Harvard and then back home earlier today. I was probably recorded dozens of times along the way, and I will miraculously still sleep well tonight. By the way, I tip my hat to the various people who have surveillance cameras on the homes and businesses. They were really helpful in the Cambridge Police Department being able to quickly identify and arrest people involved in recent shootings in The Port and the Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from the Pizzuto Family Limited Partnership Cambridge Zoning Ordinance 20.900 and Zoning Map by added section entitled New Street Overlay District.

The Nakagawa-Brown petition was getting lonely. Now there are two zoning petitions in the queue.

Order #1. That the City Council refer proposed changes to Cambridge Zoning Article 5.000.Rainwater & Flat Roof Zoning to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Kelley, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

Make that three.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, the Community Development Department, and any other relevant departments to conduct a much more thorough process of community engagement and outreach – particularly in regards to the senior community – prior to the establishment of any new bicycle lanes in the area of South Massachusetts Avenue.   Councillor Simmons

This is a nice sentiment, but we have already learned that none of this is negotiable and reasonable alternatives won’t be considered.

Order #4. That the zoning amendment to section 4.22 of the zoning code, with strikeouts and highlighting to identify proposed changes for discussion, be forwarded to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee for their review as a zoning solution to the challenges posed by current zoning constraints regarding accessory dwelling units.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Make that four.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Deputy City Manager for the Department of Human Service Programs and the Director of the Office of Workforce Development to establish and implement a dynamic new initiative that will seek to place Port residents (ages 18 and over) on paths to jobs with family-sustaining wages.   Councillor Simmons

This is perhaps the single most intelligent policy order I’ve seen all year. It may also be the most difficult to implement, but it’s worth it.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to ensure the new zoning regulations and table of land use, licensing and permitting process, Host Community Agreements, and Economic Development Department programming reflect best equity practices and ensure Cambridge residents benefit from the cannabis industry.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

I suppose we’ll have to just disagree on whether we should "ensure that people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement are included in the new legal marijuana industry" or just try to make sure there’s a level playing field.

Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Community Development Department to include a Job Linkage fee to the list of topics being evaluated in the upcoming Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

I can certainly understand prioritizing job creation using funds derived from the Incentive Zoning Linkage Fee, and how the next round of revision of those fees might rise with this goal in mind, but creating a separate fee seems unnecessary, overly restrictive, and legally questionable.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 7, 2018 to discuss amendments to the Street Performers Ordinance in section 12.16.170 in the Municipal Code. [June 26, 2017 message from City Manager] [Proposed Amendments] [Proposed Amendments with Kelley revisions]

Again – for information purposes. It seems like a lot of people have forgotten the context that led to the creation of the Street Performers Ordinance and why the buskers themselves were supportive of it at the time it was ordained. There really was a lot of competition among the performers at the time over location and volume, and this was a relatively benign way to regulate that competition.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding "Cannabis Use Equity".

Miraculously, people always seem to find a way to a solution. Is the suggestion here to set aside parts of public parks as "high zones"? If smoking pot in the street becomes legal I certainly hope the City Council and the Cambridge Police will look kindly on me walking down the avenue with a pint of Guinness.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Vice Mayor Devereux , transmitting a memorandum regarding Policy Order #72 dated Mar 19, 2018 that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Election Commission regarding the possibility of instituting early voting in the 2019 municipal election and what actions would be required by the City Council to do so.

As much as I want to see more people opting to vote in municipal elections, I’m still unsure what problem this proposal is trying to solve. It’s very easy to vote in municipal elections, there’s rarely a line, and absentee voting is as easy as 1-2-3 (or as many rankings as you please).

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Cybersecurity.

This is yet another interesting piece of work from Councillor Kelley and his assistant Mark Gutierrez. – Robert Winters

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